Metrolinx said Thursday the transit planning agency is monitoring the possibility of one day heading an integrated transit system for the entire Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. (GTHA)
But despite politicians like Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak’s willingness to see Metrolinx lead a regional transit body, chair Robert Prichard stopped well short of saying Metrolinx was interested in the task of integrating service of local transit agencies such as the TTC.
“That’s not really our job,” said Prichard. “Our job is to make work what the province and the municipalities decide on structure.”
Prichard made his comments following Metrolinx’s first board meeting of 2013, where it was announced an invitation had been extended to new provincial transportation minister Glen Murray for a meeting with the agency’s top brass at his soonest convenience.
“We’ve assured previous ministers and we’ll assure this minister that we will make work whatever structure is put into place rather than being advocates of a particular structure,” said Prichard during a media scrum.
At the meeting, the board approved an updated list of priority projects Metrolinx would like to see built as part of its Big Move transportation plan for the GTHA.
The projects, estimated to cost $34-billion, also include the completion of the eastern portion of a downtown relief subway line (DRL) which the TTC says is necessary to address overcapacity issues.
Also included in the list is a northern expansion of the Yonge subway line from Finch Station into Richmond Hill, which would be completed following the DRL.
At the Feb. 14 board meeting, the board was told the agency is working to complete agreements regarding the fare structure of the Union-Pearson Express air rail link (ARL), which will travel along the Georgetown GO rail corridor between Union Station and Pearson International Airport when it is complete by 2015.
Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig said a “simplified” fare structure would make it easier for visitors to bundle their rail fare with their plane ticket.
“We want to make it easy for someone coming in a plane from Europe for example (to) purchase a ticket even before landing at the airport,” said McCuaig. “We’re looking at a whole bunch of technology in terms of making it easier to get on board the system.”
At the public portion of the hour-plus meeting, the board heard regular updates from the heads of GO and Presto as well as a presentation on the results so far of its transit roundtable discussions taking place across the GTHA.
Metrolinx vice-president Judy Pfeifer said feedback from online as well public feedback indicated residents are eager to see more transit built and prefer the implementation of a dedicated gas tax to pay for it.
Prichard said Metrolinx is planning a special board meeting on May 27 where it will publicly unveil its investment strategy to pay for the Big Move, which will take 25 years and annual funding of two billion dollars to complete. The strategy is scheduled to be presented to the premier on June 1.
Also announced at the meeting was the appointment of Stephen Smith to vice-chair of the board as well as the introduction of new board member Frances Lankin, the former Beaches-East York MPP who also headed the United Way in addition to board seats at various organizations.
“She’s served on every damn board that’s out there,” quipped Prichard during the meeting.